Australian composer Michael Fugucio, aka Vi-Res, is part of a new exciting generation of soundtrack composers whose styles echo that of the classic horror and sci-fi genre movies of the 70’s and 80’s. Vi-Res already has three releases under his belt; the Imaginary scores The First People and Sunstar, as well as the recently released Lost Score, his unused score for an upcoming Australian film. We had the chance to speak to Vi-Res about his musical background and influences, his new label Disco Cinematic and what we can expect from him in the future.
Hi Michael and thank you for taking time out from your busy schedule to do this interview. We are huge fans of your music and are excited to see what you have in store for us in the future.
Could you give us a bit of background about yourself and how you became involved in writing and composing music?
I started playing guitar at the age of 12. The first band that I played in was in year 7 at high school playing bass guitar. Around the age of 15 I tried to put a band together with my schoolmates, we just jammed, taught each other how to play songs and had lots of fun. At the age of 17 I joined my first original thrash metal band called ‘Disillusion’ as a bass player. It was with this band that I started to write riffs and tried to form songs from riffs. At the age of 18 I was already fed up with being in bands and took on a kind of live sound engineering apprenticeship with a touring production company and was immediately thrown into the world of touring with Australian national and heritage bands.
During this time I would pay close attention to what the musicians were doing. At the same time I owned a Fostex 4-track recorder and would start trying to write my own songs and instrumentals when I was at home. I was frustrated with the touring situation by the age of 24 so I quit that job and bought a set of drums and took some lessons, which led to playing with several bands as a drummer as well as a bassist.
At this time I was living in a recording/rehearsal studio and pestered a few of the bands there to allow me to record their rehearsals so I could experiment with microphone placement and recording to analogue and digital mediums etc. A few years later I set up a relocatable recording service and recorded a few bands and soloists, as well as some bands that I was playing in. During these times I found the band situation to be a limited creative experience and often wondered why the others in the band were there at all. There is more to music than playing in pubs, partying and waiting for a recording deal. I wanted to write and record regardless of the bands profile, why not just make records anyway?
You don’t need to wait for someone in a suit to give you permission to do these things. It was time to challenge the old way of thinking and having been in the touring situation previously I was not enthusiastic about returning to it, particularly in Australia’s ever declining entertainment industry.
Your music is very influenced by soundtracks and electronic music. Are there any particular composers or film scores that have influenced you?
When I was a child my older brother was playing a fair bit of Jean Michel Jarre, Mike Oldfield, Vangelis, Kitaro etc. whilst my father was collecting beta videos and soundtracks on vinyl. My biggest score influences are; Brad Fiedel’s Terminator 1 & 2, John Carpenter’s Halloween 3 and Escape From New York as well as Vangelis’ Blade Runner and Goblin’s Suspiria to name a few. I also remember the synth scores of sci-fi and technology shows on television from early childhood as well as Star Trek and The Million Dollar Man…
Your previous work, especially your first two releases, The First People and Sunstar are very synthesizer orientated. What kind of equipment do you use to write your music and can you give us an idea of what that process entails?
Some of The First people was written on guitar then played into Logic via a midi controller.
The writing process usually consists of either improvised parts when I am playing an instrument or parts that I have imagined whilst I am doing other things like hanging out the laundry or other daily life things. I then have to race to the keyboard to record a “sketch” of that idea before it is lost. I will then come back to it a couple of days later and arrange the idea into a track.
Apart from the live instruments, everything is done “in the box”. I use Logic as my main DAW and also use Reason and Native Instruments 8 bundle as well as some sampled drum machines like Oberheim and Roland. I use a late 80’s made in Taiwan acoustic guitar and a recent Chinese Fender Squire ’52 Telecaster reissue that is actually a lot better than the Mexican and USA Tele’s of late. I built a replica u47 and use that for acoustic through either a GAP 573, an Audient Mico or the inbuilt pre’s on whatever interface that I happen to be using at the time, be it an Avid Duo Track, a Focusrite Saffire or a Sternberg UR22…..to be honest the UR22 is the best sounding of the 3.
I also have an Epiphone Valve Senior amp that is better than it is supposed to be and a miniature Marshall, belt clip, battery-operated amp that delivers a very ’squelchy’ tone that agrees with the Tele sometimes. None of these companies have helped me in any way and I have had to pay for them all.
How does the writing process for an imaginary score differ to that of an actual film?
Well I have to say that an imagined score has a lot more room for creative freedom. Scoring a film has more boundaries like scene lengths, dialogue, timing of what’s actually happening on screen and what the director actually wants for the film. It usually takes me about three weeks to complete an album from start to finish. If I can’t complete a track in a day or two then I am skeptical of whether it is actually a good idea in the first place. If it doesn’t flow and write itself then I start on something else. I like for the final result to retain the spirit of the original idea. So TFP and Sunstar were about 3 weeks and Lost Score was 10 days. I like to work quickly but I’m learning to slow down a little. I am currently giving things more time, as the arrangements are a little more complex than a usual Vi-Res piece. I am still learning.
Until now your albums have been available solely via digital and cassette tape. Do you have any plans to enter the currently booming vinyl market?
Not really. If I knew that I could sell enough vinyl to justify the minimum pressing numbers then I would certainly press vinyl. My heart lies with vinyl but at this stage I am still trying to establish a fan base so digital and cassette makes more sense to me as I’m not at all well known. The last thing that I need right now is boxes of unsold Vi-Res records lying around the house. SNDTRK will be a vinyl release.
There are a number of artists in the soundtrack world, like Pentagram Home Video, Repeated Viewing and Slasher Film Festival Strategy, who are similarly composing scores to imaginary films. Do you feel like you are involved in a small community with these composers?
I definitely feel that it is a community and hope that they do too. I would like to see this community expand. I am a big fan of the three artists that you have mentioned, two of which will be on the upcoming SNDTRK compilation that my wife and I have been putting together.
You have recently released your unused score for an upcoming Australian film which is now available under the title Lost Score. Can you give us a bit of background about how you became involved in that project and why it was never used?
I knew the director through my involvement in a small local music scene. I saw on Facebook that he has been trying to make this film for several years so I approached him with TFP and Sunstar. He liked those and then sent me a couple of scenes to score. After hearing the results he gave me the movie in the form of thirty or so scenes of which I made demos for 22, I think. But those scenes had since been edited into a final cut so he had difficulties adding my score to the film so he rejected my score, bought a keyboard and has started to score the film himself. I was the third composer hired for the project and the third to be fired so I kind of feel that there was no pleasing him to begin with but it was a good experience to have done it and I certainly look forward to doing more of this kind of work….definitely.
Recently you announced that you have started your own label Disco Cinematic and the release of the compilation SNDTRK. Can you explain why that came about and what your plans are for the future of the label?
When I realised that there was a potential market for TFP I started to have a look at what other artists in this genre were doing and how they went about releasing their music. I discovered a lot of very good artists and started to buy their downloads and cassettes. Also through the spintheblackestcircles.com website and The Damn Fine Cast podcast I noticed that there really was a fair amount of people in this area. I suggested to someone to release a compilation and when they refused I thought that I would just do it myself, as you do.
I want SNDTRK to represent this community and also for it to be a sampler of composers that hopefully film makers will take notice of and for fans to have a really great compilation of this type of music. Apart from SNDTRK and the Vi-Res releases, we don’t have any immediate plans to be a fully active label. We may release an artist or two but at this stage nothing else is scheduled and we are not actively searching for something to release. This label is not our bread and butter so we will never release something for the sake of it. It’s not a money making scheme either as we are splitting the profits, if any, amongst the artists. If SNDTRK does well then we may or may not do SNDTRK Volume 2.
Asides from your new label, what can we expect from Vi-Res in the future in terms of upcoming releases and projects?
I’m currently working on my next imagined score ‘Memoirs From The Apocalypse’. It is the story of a committed mental health patient with severe schizophrenia who believes that he is a survivor of a nuclear holocaust and that he is in a bunker with other survivors. I’ve also just started working with The Slow Engineer for a future release. I’ve recorded some cover versions of music that I like so I am currently in the process of licensing these for a release. I am also searching for another film to score. So if there are any film makers reading this that are interested in having me score a film of any kind, then please get in touch.